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Inslee requests Washington’s coast be spared from offshore drilling expansion

SEATTLE --  A day after the Trump administration granted Florida Governor Rick Scott's request to not expand offshore drilling around his state, Governor Jay Inslee sent a letter to the Trump administration requesting that Washington's coast also be spared.

In a letter sent to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Inslee detailed the impact the coast has on Washington's economy.

"Washington is home to the nation’s largest shellfish industry, and its marine and coastal waters support robust fishing and shipping economic sectors, as well as a significant U.S. Navy presence supporting our national defense. Each of these sectors could be adversely impacted by new offshore oil and gas activities off of our coast," Inslee wrote.

A week ago, the Trump administration announced a major expansion to offshore drilling with a plan that would open up federal waters for the first time in more than three decades.

On Wednesday, Zinke announced that Florida -- a tourism-focused state with the second most coastline in the nation -- would be spared from the new order.

Inslee joins a growing list of governors (California, Maryland, New Jersey, Oregon, Virginia, and North and South Carolina) who are outraged by the offshore drilling expansion.

"We all have the same things, I have in Washington -- a $400 million recreation industry, a $1.5 billion fishing industry, and 11,000 jobs in the tourism industry in the Washington beaches," Inslee said on CNN.

Governors demand same treatment

Zinke's decision has led to extensive complaints by other coastal governors who have already staked out not-in-my-backyard opposition to expanding offshore drilling, often on the same tourism concerns Florida has.

GOP Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire told reporters "of course" he opposed drilling off the New Hampshire coast.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster -- a vocal Trump supporter -- told reporters in South Carolina on Wednesday that he opposes Trump's offshore drilling plan and will take "appropriate steps" to counter it, according to video provided to CNN.

"I am opposed to off shore drilling of South Carolina's shore. I am opposed to seismic testing off of South Carolina shore," he said. "We cannot take a chance with those resources, those industry and that economy. It is just too important. This is a matter of serious importance to us in South Carolina."

When asked if he will push for a waiver from the Trump administration, McMaster said, "I will be taking appropriate steps and there will be more news later."

Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan said his administration would use "any viable legal claims, actions or suits against the US government to prevent."

A spokesperson for Nathan Deal said the Republican Georgia governor had "some concerns with opening up Georgia's pristine coastlines which he will convey to the congressional delegation."

And a spokesperson for Charlie Baker, the popular Republican governor of Massachusetts, said Wednesday that he opposes Trump's plan to allow offshore drilling up the East Coast.

Democrats were just as upset.

"New York doesn't want drilling off our coast either. Where do we sign up for a waiver @SecretaryZinke," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo tweeted.

"For more than 30 years, our shared coastline has been protected from further federal drilling and we'll do whatever it takes to stop this reckless, short-sighted action," California Gov. Jerry Brown, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee -- the three West Coast governors, all Democrats -- said in a statement.

Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat, took to Twitter to rhetorically ask why Florida was treated differently than Virginia in Trump's offshore drilling decision.

"Virginia's governor (and governor-elect) have made this same request, but we have not received the same commitment. Wonder why," Kaine tweeted, referring to two Democratic leaders of the commonwealth.

"We'd like a word in Virginia," Ralph Northam, the state's governor-elect, tweeted in response to Zinke.

And Roy Cooper, the Democratic governor of North Carolina, responded to a Zinke tweet: "Is this thing on? I'll try again: Not Off Our Coast -- RC"

The only coastal governor -- Democrat or Republican -- seemingly supportive of the plan is Republican Gov. Paul LePage of Maine, whose spokeswoman told CNN on Wednesday that while he has not reviewed all the details of the Interior plan, he "generally supports efforts to make good use of our indigenous resources and improve the United States' energy independence and security."

Legal problems?

The decision to exempt Florida could also open the Trump administration to legal challenges, allowing states not exempted to complain that the decision is arbitrary because one state was left off the list because Zinke talked with the governor.

"Two days in, the Trump administration has shown us exactly what their offshore drilling proposal is all about and it has nothing to do with listening to local and state voices, economics, or science. This is about playing politics with our coast," Sierra Weaver, senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, said in a statement.

"If it was anything but that, Secretary Zinke would have announced tonight that he was removing Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, where offshore drilling has already been rejected by local and state voices," Weaver added.